Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) has made the tourism investment process easy by streamlining the project approval process and the facilitation services provided by the Investor Relations Unit (IRU) – the unit established within SLTDA as the centralized facilitation arm for tourism investments in the country.
The key objective of this effort is to provide a single point of contact for the investors in the tourism sector and to provide an efficient, effective and hassle-free investment facilitation process for tourism investments.
In general, an investor in the tourism sector has to fill individual applications for several line agencies for approval of a tourism project. The number of agencies applicable for a tourism project is comparatively higher if the projects are located closer to a sensitive attraction. The process, therefore, becomes tedious, complex and time-consuming and as a result, incurs a considerable cost for the investor. This situation sometimes also encourages third party involvements which lead to corruption.
Finding solutions for the above issues; a centralized facilitation unit was established by SLTDA in late 2010. The IRU has approved 503 projects with a total value of US $ 3789.04 Mns during the past 10 years. The inter-agency collaboration was further strengthened recently with the continuous dialogue which resulted in bringing together all project approving government agencies to prepare one common application for tourism investments.
In addition, the approval processes of key approving agencies were mapped to spot the duplications and delays due to unnecessary steps and multiple signatories. The process was thereby streamlined and as a result, the time taken to issue a preliminary clearance was able to be reduced from 45 days to 25 days. The total average number of reduction of days taken for project approvals is expected to be reduced further in the future.
Technical support for the above streamlining process was provided to SLTDA by USAID’s Supporting Accelerated Investment in Sri Lanka (SAIL) Project with a team of experts with international expertise & exposure. Talking about the contribution made by the SAIL project, Mr. Glenn F. J. Mackenzie-Frazer, Chief of Party, IDG Country Director stated:
“The hard work and dedication of the SLTDA Investor Relations Unit is now bearing fruit and making the investment process a streamlined and transparent process which is investor focused. This is one more step on the path of placing Sri Lanka at the forefront of tourism globally. It has been USAID-SAIL's privilege to partner with SLTDA on this journey”.
Having the tourism mandate as per the Tourism Act No 38 of 2005, SLTDA’s Investor Relations Unit (IRU) makes sure all upcoming developments in tourism by the private sector is complied with specified quality standards and developed in compliance to the existing regulations of the country. This helps reduce low-quality and illegal tourism establishments, which will impact in eradicating informal sector of tourism in the future.
Responding to the achievements recently made by the Investor Relations Unit (IRU, Ms.Kimarli Fernando, Chairperson of SLTDA stated,
“The above achievements are not made solely by the SLTDA. It’s a joint effort made by all government agencies. The collaboration and support given by all the government agencies in making these improvements to the process are tremendous, SLTDA thanks all the Heads of those agencies and all the government officers who contributed to this effort.
Very soon, the entire process will be automated and the facility will be available for the investor to submit the application on-line and to track the progress of approvals. This will be an integrated system where all the project approving agencies and utility agencies are connected” SLTDA encourages all the investors to obtain the services of Investor Relations Unit (IRU) to obtain reliable information on the process, proper guidance and facilitation services to ensure successful tourism projects with proper quality standards.